I can’t believe it’s been more than a month since The Warrior’s been back…it seems like it’s been a lot longer than that. Perhaps it’s because I had prepared myself for a rough reintegration (“prepare for the worst, hope for the best”) – so maybe it seems like he’s been back a lot longer because life has been very good. Many couples and families go through incredible trials upon returning from deployment, so I am thankful that we’ve been blessed with a fairly smooth transition. Of course, no one’s life is perfect and everyone has their moments, but I am very grateful for how things are.
I think the biggest key to a smooth reintegration period is coming back to lots of love and support. That first comes from one’s family and wife/fiancee/girlfriend, but being welcomed by the community is also an important factor. It has been overwhelming in the best way to see how much support people have shown for The Warrior in the area where I’m from. The community truly cares! Members of my church, my co-workers, and even complete strangers have come up to him, shaken his hand, and said, “Thank you for your service.” The most dramatic and moving incident happened last week: The Warrior visited over Memorial Day weekend, and my grandma’s church had a bingo night fundraiser. He got caught in traffic on the way up, so he missed the beginning when they had a Memorial Day dedication…but at intermission, my grandma took a small slip of paper up to the caller with the microphone….sneaky!
During the intermission, a couple got The Warrior’s attention, so he got up from his chair and talked to them for several minutes. Apparently, the husband had been in the military but had had a stroke, so now he had some trouble speaking. I glanced over when I saw him take The Warrior’s hand and the wife prompted her husband, “Thank you for your service,” saying each word slowly.
A few minutes later, everyone was called back to their seats, and no sooner was he in his seat than everyone in the room heard this from the caller:
“I have just been given a note here, that we have a special person with us here today. His name is Rank First Name Last Name” –here The Warrior looked quite bewildered– “who just returned from deployment in Afghanistan.” People began applauding, and I gently pushed him to stand up. “Thank you for serving our country.” After standing for a few seconds and acknowledging everyone’s appreciation, he sat back down, and then something happened that I did not expect: EVERYONE in the room –all 200 attendees– stood up, still applauding, FOR HIM. My grandma saw several older men who jumped up first and were more enthusiastically applauding than the rest – I bet they were veterans themselves.
But this wasn’t all: after everyone calmed down and got ready for the next game, a sponsor of the game came over to The Warrior and said quietly, “You come on over to my restaurant sometime this weekend, and dinner is on me.” Before he left, he stopped by again, reiterating his invite. This is a NICE restaurant, by the way. WOW! We went on Saturday evening and it was absolutely wonderful.
I’ve kept thinking back on last week, especially when a couple hundred people stood up just for him, and I get a happy lump in my throat. I am overjoyed that he has come back to a place where citizens truly appreciate him and all the troops. They don’t judge, they don’t question the military’s job, they don’t give their political opinions….they just appreciate and thank. They realize just how wonderful our military is. On Tuesday night (primary election day here in Texas), I was invited by the wife of a local elected official to their home for a “watch party”….and now The Warrior and I have yet another dinner invitation next time he’s in town!
I’ll never be able to explain how much it means to me to see him so appreciated. He has sacrificed a lot….he has seen things that most of us will never even get close to seeing. We’ll never be able to understand. But for all of you to stand alongside me and tell him, “I appreciate you”….that is priceless.
Memorial Day fireworks
Thank you to all who have served our country….
….especially to my Dear Fiance :)